Ned Hollande couldn't and more importantly, wouldn't shut up for anyone at anytime.
Any time someone stops you outside and tells you something, it is imperative to assess second and to listen first. People want to tell you things so you do them favors, some feel it is their responsibility in life to enlighten you on subjects outside of your normal comprehension and some people just want to reiterate their internally defined overarching intelligence. When the day is warm and pleasant, these little messages can be received with a minimum of effort but when things are cold, blustery and nasty outside, the act necessary to receive this information is rarely worth the effort. To truly receive the messages, a hat must come off or at least the ear flaps must be retracted or activated upwards. To provide sufficient non-verbal cues, glare-blocking sunglasses and a wind chill-deflecting scarf/gaiter must be removed and to demonstrate legitimate dyadic behavior, these acts must be completed by both sender and receiver. If the person talking has your best interests in mind, the temperature has to be more of a factor as you paint back the picture but if the person is a jerk, the cold weather adds insult to audio injury so while you not listening to someone you don't like or respect, you are freezing your nuts (real or hypothetical) off at the same time.
Ned Hollande was just that type of person; he always was full of comments and only felt comfortable when he was talking and you were listening. His daily regimen consisted of going to work (but no one ever figured out what he did) and commenting on all types of things. He was vocal amongst his peers, he couldn't shut up when he crossed a path with the company's senior management and he would talk to anyone who would listen or stand quietly as he did. So aggressive was his communication style, his audiences usually consisted of the mentally infirmed and the newest and most gullible employees. A consistent rite of passage for new workers was usually the quick realization that Ned was a total blowhard and someone to avoid at all costs. For the weak of heart or lack of spine, it would take a few more weeks to dispose of Ned and his never-ending commentary about all things Ned-like. However, even the most accommodating would jettison him within a month and he would wander around in hopes of finding a new employee or someone's relative who was wandering through one of the many cube farms spread around the company.
His ability to exhaust you with his conversation style was well-known and some supervisors would warn their new employees prior to the start date just to guarantee an easy transition. There had been several rumors which fingered Ned as the sole reason for several new employees leaving within a few days of their initial employment; nothing was ever shared with the employee community and no one ever saw a slackening of Ned's percussive and suffocating communication stylings but the circumstances were too mountainous to ignore. As stated above, Ned couldn't and more importantly, wouldn't shut up for anyone at anytime. His commitment to annoy was admirable in a strange but sadistic way but once the admiration left, which was always earlier than one assumes, all that was left was a pushy individual in love with his own voice and a demonstrated personality of a four year old spoiled brat with a nonstop mouth engine and a savant-like ability to keep talking no matter what social cues were crammed into his face.
When Jason Powers started at the company, he assumed his first day would be sitting in an employee orientation, watching canned videos and filling out dozens of forms. He got to the company early, and without a badge or any valuable knowledge, he cooled his heels at the guard's desk waiting for someone in human resources to return the call from the reception area. He got a seat in the corner of the reception area and watched people walk through the gate, beeping their pass cards from lanyards, wallets and purses. The stream of employees was impressive; so orderly, so practiced in their entry dance that Jason could see his short-term future play out in front of him. He knew that within a day, he would walk in just like them and likely stumble into his cube within a minimum of effort. Each day, the parking place would be closer, his step would be more efficient and each day, his newness would be rubbed off and he would give the impression of a seasoned business professional. As the fantasy of his growing proficiency percolated through his brain, a voice pierced the dull hum of many orderly shoes on carpet. Someone was talking at an oddly loud volume and by the sound of it, appeared to be talking to everyone at the same time but doing all the talking. Jason saw the man enter and exit his field of vision and he could tell with one glance that this man was an asshole of the first order. Jason had never jumped to conclusions before and never judged a book by its cover but all tired and hackneyed colloquialisms aside, this guy was a genuine and bona fide tool. However, the only curious aspect of the individual was how he didn't appear to take a breath while he talked. Jason did not know at this time that Ned has perfected his vocal skills to avoid taking pauses by breathing like Opera singers; pauses meant interruptions and Ned had no interest in anything which took away his stage of sound.
While the morning was fairly boring with some orientation talk and a few hardcopy signatures, Jason found himself at his new department carrying his interview portfolio and a medium-sized box with a few company trinkets. He walked around until he found his cube; there was no nameplate but he did recognize his employee number which was being displayed on a yellow post-it™ note on his phone. He put his property into a desk drawer and found his user name and password under the keyboard; just as promised in orientation. He spent a few moments coming up with a new password and found himself looking at his first two work emails: one auto-generated from the IT Help Desk and one from his supervisor, apologizing for her absence that morning (due to illness) and a few lame recommendations to keep him busy until she returned, hopefully tomorrow. Jason literally looked around the cube farm and saw the names of his likely co-workers and wondered if that jerk-off über talker was his neighbor. He certainly hoped, for both of their collective sake, he wasn't because since he was a little boy, Jason had a tendency to enjoy righting societal wrongs which presented themselves with situations showing a lack of common courtesy. Just because he had a real job, it didn't mean that Jason was going to back down on his lifetime goals of helping the mute, downtrodden and slow-witted. He had a big heart and a short fuse and the combination always guaranteed an interesting day. But he knew he had to dial these feelings down a bit but while not formally ignoring them, he had to compartmentalize them as best he could. This trait was never tested during his interview process and if the behavior was able to be quantified, Jason Powers was the Robin Hood to all things annoying.
The fact that his boss was ill caused him to think that he could likely sit in his cube, relatively undisturbed, for the day and cruise the company intranet for tidbits and related trivia and the internet for anything that caught his fancy. Every once in awhile, he would stand up and act like he was stretching and look around. It appeared his cube farm area was fairly isolated; a few folks were seen at nearby printers and distant but consistent movement sounds implied a restroom was just out of his sight. He dutifully reviewed everything he thought might be important and responded to his boss that he was certainly sorry to hear she was not feeling well and volunteered to do anything she requested if the need existed. He correctly assumed that the message would give him some credibility as a go-getter but would result in zero tasks. By mid-afternoon, he stumbled upon the company phonebook, complete with pictures, and decided to find a name to go along with the face of the early morning jerk.
It took Jason about thirty minutes to find him; the combination of a large company (approximately eight hundred employees in the building) and Ned's alphabetical ranking resulted in Jason's expending a valid amount of energy to find him. He pulled up a map and found the area which Ned supposedly worked and decided to engage in some reconnaissance. He had nothing to do so he grabbed several file folders of unimportant documents and decided to find this guy. He now had his identification card and had no boundaries in front of him. Jason initially justified it as an orientation field trip but he knew he wanted to find this guy to gain a better understanding of where the enemy slept. The Finance Department was two floors above Marketing but in the same building so it wouldn't take long for him to him to head down two flights of stairs and find him. He decided to avoid the elevator and after a moment or two getting his bearings, Jason went out on the hunt.
He walked onto the floor of the marketing area and saw a beautiful woman. She was fairly young but had the demeanor of someone with a general working knowledge of the company. She was dressed from head to toe in black but the textures of her clothing were different; like a black upholstered chair which was rich and complimentary at the same time. While the color was the same, the different fabrics provided a classy, internal contrast to her look. Her face was bright and intelligent and amongst all the dark clothing, you could tell she was smart as well as good looking. As he momentarily stared at her, Ned came around the corner, in mid-monologue and headed right towards her. It was obvious that the conversation was not beginning, but rather was returning from intermission to seek something significant somewhere. Ned looked mad and was pointing repeated fingers at her; her beauty was her defense, she stood there and took it but it was obvious Ned had done that dance before with people because the bustle of the office was not affected; co-workers were not looking up and no one was changing their gait when approaching them. Jason knew this guy was a jerk before but now, by browbeating the doe-eyed beauty in black, now moved up into rank from personal annoyance to now, priority one target.
He hung back and watched Ned complete his well-practiced fit of pique. What made this outburst odder than expected was the number of words he used when he complained and criticized her. Usually, the antagonist would hurl a few insults and stomp away but this temper tantrum went on for five minutes with Ned spewing well over a thousand words. The woman was saturated with his anger and while she stood there and took it the abuse, Jason felt she was being wronged in a particular cruel manner. Eventually (and I mean eventually), Ned had completed his mission, tapped the file folders in her hand percussively which caused a piece of paper to drop to the floor. He walked away, still talking and Jason saw this as a time to strike so he walked up to her, bent down and picked up the paper. She looked at him with beautiful but dazed eyes; Jason knew it was not the time to chat her up but rather to send a little sunshine her way and disappear. He would no doubt see her again, unless she immediately walked out to find an employment attorney, and he wanted her to connect him to his chivalrous nature and fall madly in love.
"Excuse me. Here you go, you dropped this."
"Thank you," she said automatically without looking at him but taking the paper. She was still dazed and her rote reaction had to be discounted so it was best to score a few points and move on.
Jason Powers, only fifteen minutes after his successful completion of the company's online sexual harassment program, slightly touched her hand and said, "You are welcome."
The sensation of skin touching skin brought her back to the moment and before she could say anything, Jason nodded and disappeared. He backtracked his steps to the stairwell and directly into his cube. He had seen her face during his search for the now-identified Ned Hollande so he felt it would be only a few moments to find her again. Also, since his picture or name had not yet been uploaded to the employee directory, he was comfortable with his current anonymity to stay off her radar for the time being. Furthermore, one hand touch wasn't going to be enough to woo her, he had to dispose of the antagonist and carry the day. Jason spent the next ten minutes searching for her and luckily, her last name was well-placed in the middle of the "C's" and he quickly memorized her vital statistics. Her picture was accurate and her hair a bit shorter, all leading to the conclusion that she was fairly new at the company, which fit in nicely with phase two of his plan.
Jason spent the remainder of his first day walking around the building. He had downloaded the map and wanted to learn all the main areas; the building was unique and each floor had its own quirks. It was technically a rectangle but each side had a few unique features. The rear side had a portion jut out and circle off to an angle. It would appear from an airplane like a man's square head had an extra chin or extra eyebrow depending on which direction one would fly over it. Jason had heard that the employees referred to the area as "the nose" and in the winter, it was the only outside area protected from the wind and as such, it because a big favorite to the small numbers of smokers in the company. Luckily, Jason discovered that Ned was a smoker and filed that information away for another time. By the end of the first day, Jason had found a woman to woo, a knucklehead to hate and his way to the bathroom on five different floors. It was officially a good day and he looked forward to finally meeting his boss the next morning.
Day two of Jason's ascension into the working world began quietly. He was so tired when he got home from his first day that he ate quickly, waved goodnight to his still-matriculating roommates and went to bed. Their priorities were a year behind his so after dinner, he carefully hung up his first suit and laid out his first sportcoat, first dress slacks, first blue shirt and first maroon tie for day 2. He was in bed by 7:00pm all the open tasks he had planned for the evening had to be postponed. He wanted to google the beautiful woman in black; see if she had a Facebook account or some information that would provide some insight. Unfortunately, he was out cold by 7:05 pm and woke up at 6:00 am, thanks to his cell phone. He dressed carefully and left a bit earlier than usual because this was the day he was going to meet his new boss. Without her, the first day dragged by mid-afternoon and he was looking forward to learning something new. He knew he couldn't spend the day plotting the torture of the garrulous Ned Hollande or his future wedding with the beautiful Ms. C; he had to grow up a bit and do some real work.
Jason got to the office fairly early but took his time walking into work. He used the extra few minutes to scout out the woman in black in hopes of matching her gait and finally meeting her without disruption or proximity to any sort of crisis situation. Jason was also aware he couldn't rely on the apparel color on day two so he made a conscious effort to look at faces and ignore the trappings of today's fashions. He was not sure of her looks, he had only seen her briefly, but he knew her beauty would be a homing beacon to his attention. He walked in but did not see her; it was not for the lack of trying but no matter how many furtive scans of the waves of fellow employees he conducted, he had a boss to meet.
Thanks to yesterday's field trips, Jason was fairly skilled in navigating an efficient path to his cube and when he arrived, he recognized his boss sitting in her office, staring at her screen. He could tell she was deathly ill; her fallow-like complexion was a true indicator of her present state and there was no doubt that her present state sucks. The only color he could differentiate was the parts of her face where base make-up and her face sweats had caused subtle puddles of congealed foundation. Her cheeks looked like two little pools of tan pudding and this was still very early in the day.
"Good Morning, Boss" said Jason as he leaned into her door.
"Good morning, Jason," said his boss. "Don't call me Boss and don't get near me........I feel like crap."
"No problem, are you all right?"
"Not really, I wanted to come in to reassure you that I existed but I don't know how long I can last. Especially since I feel like crap."
"I don't know much yet, I am fairly certain you should go home. Especially since you feel like, as you continue to say....crap."
"I think I will. I will try to log in from home but I blocked most of this week for us to start on a few things."
"I appreciate that but I can entertain and educate myself until you return. I found the research library, I completed all my paperwork, I have found an online orientation website and I have a bunch of reading to do. Either way, I will bear up with my bewildered best."
"Thanks. I will try to send you some stuff today. I promise once I get on my feet, we can start moving but right now, I can't stand for more than about two minutes before having to sit down."
"Go home. Email any tasks and I will do them. If I don't hear from you, I will remain busy and more importantly, look busy."
"Great, I will pack up now."
In only a few moments, his boss had packed up her things, slid her laptop into her briefcase and made towards the rear entrance. She had no interest in seeing anyone and while officially, she was worried about being contagious, she was more worried if anyone had seen her in this state. At 8:15 am, Jason had another full day to entertain himself while getting paid. This gig was getting more interesting every day.
Jason walked down to the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee; with his pass card swinging elegantly from the end of his just-issued lanyard, he looked like any standard hire at the company. His many field trips from yesterday made him an old hand at the locations and supporting pathways; he used the new-found expertise to free a majority of his observational skills to find the mysterious beautiful woman in black. Since this was the second day, he needed to keep his mind open and avoid reliance on the color pattern but her choice of wardrobe was so unique that he was confident she would be wearing some other cool ensemble which stood out without standing out from the crowd. He had plenty of time to think about her yesterday; the combination of complimentary fabrics within the same color was a genius move. Also, Jason knew she wouldn't be doing the same bold move again, such as being totally dressed in red with the same fabric trick but he was confident she would look great.
However, his trip to and from the cafeteria yielding neither a sighting of the divine Miss C. or the dickhead Ned Hollande. The main reason for this was Ned had scheduled an 8am meeting last yesterday afternoon and had invited many people, including the divine Miss C. to attend. Ned used Microsoft Outlook™ like a weapon; he scheduled meetings at the last minute, kept the subject vague, overwhelmed the meeting's purpose with numerous cut/paste inserts and paid no attention to the attendee's schedules. He never looked at anyone's current schedule and would double and triple-book their calendars with no regard to other responsibilities. Fortunately for him, only his subordinates would attend the meeting and have to endure several hours of non-stop yammerings coming directly from the never-shutting mouth of Mr. Hollande.
Just as Jason poured his coffee and looked around the cafeteria, Ned was already twenty minutes into his meeting with no signs of stopping. Ned had developed his meeting strategy years ago which was founded on the following principle: talk all the time, take no notes, don't listen, make people do things for you, seek no input and never, ever stop talking. The divine Miss C. was in the corner of the meeting room, writing very slowly and deliberately with no fear of being discovered. While Ned wanted to monopolize someone's time, he never asked questions or followed up on anything he had said: he just wanted to talk and everyone to listen. And when Jason had paid for his coffee and began walking back to his cube, Ned finally a brief breath and for one fleeting moment, silence had resonated throughout the meeting room. However, that moment passed and Ned jumped back into another disconnected and rambling soliloquy of selfish and ignorant observations of the mundane.
Impatient with his lack of contact with his targets, Jason decided to head down to the hunting area and see what he could find. Fully prepared to purchase another cup of coffee, Jason walked onto the floor with his folder props and began a corner to corner search of the premises. He realized that Tuesdays must be meeting days because many of the glass-walled enclaves were busy with meetings when yesterday, they had stood empty. Hopefully, he would find her sitting in a meeting so he walked around, with a measured and determined pace to scout out his future wife. The floors had twelve meeting rooms, some large and some small but they were laid out in a pattern so it took a few moments to glance at them all from unseen corners. He was not going to waste his passing by move by stumbling onto his objective; he was going to find the room and take his sweet time walking by so he could assure eye contact.
At the ninth meeting room, he saw her sitting in the corner facing the window, in a basic black outfit with some bright accessories to soften her look. He steeled himself and walked by from the side which allowed him maximum face time with the corner and before he began, he did a quick check of his look in the nearby bathroom to make sure zippers were up, hair was in place and maximum good impressions were potentially there for the taking. He began his walk and casually looked into the room; his motion caused a few window facers to look up and finally, their eyes met. He had to remain casual but wanted to give her as much time as possible to recognize him. Her beautiful head rose slightly, her beautiful eyes registered his presence and Jason did believe that her beautiful face showed a slight recognition of his heroics as he finished his pass. She didn't break out with a large smile and applause but he did think she had made the connection, albeit subtle or subconscious. Only time would tell if he was right.
Jason went back to his cube and checked his email; he wanted to make sure he responded in a timely manner of any requests coming from Beth. Once they found their rhythm, his goal was to stay ahead of any looming work because these two days running around unsupervised taught him a valuable lesson: work was like school. He had always prided himself with his work ethic and while he took every opportunity to not follow standard operating procedure, he always had his work done. As a grade school student, Jason studied the night before so he could play during class because when the teacher asked him a question, he always wanted to have the right answer. His fellow classmates were fairly peripatetic when it came to academics but he didn't hold that against them; they were going to school together because they lived near each other. Public education was not a pure system of achievement-based teaching, it was the best a democratic society could do until the students were older. Jason saw that crack in the system at an early age and made a point of staying ahead of the academic demands by putting in the work before it was presented. His learning style and his desire to right societal wrongs made his personality an interesting combination of entertaining opposites.
There was no emails waiting Jason so he decided it was time to plot the next move; he wasn't sure how much free time was left so he went down to the cafeteria at noon and placed himself at a small table near the cashier. If the divine Miss C. wanted to see him and was hungry, this was the time to do it. He picked out a lunch which represented a reasonable attempt at healthy eating and brought a book to increase the duration of time spent in public. He ate his lunch very slowly and looked up from his book everytime he sensed new movement coming through the door. It was not as elegant as he had hoped for during his planning stage but it would have to do for now. He prided himself on being a friendly individual who did not relish his alter-ego's appearance but sometimes one runs into someone who is imprevious to both charm and/or common social sense and Ned was likely that type of person. It wasn't going to be personal, the best crusades had a higher purpose and Jason just found a beauty.
Jason had fought the good fight a few times in his younger years and he had learned a single but valuable lesson: it was not personal. He wasn't mad at anyone or wished them true anguish. He wanted them to taste the bitter reality of their own overbearing personality and let their own pompous, immature demeanor apply enough self-inflicted damage to cause them a moment of pause.
It is fascinating what you see when you are not looking for anything in particular.
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